A reader writes in and says:
To spend a month or longer in rehab, how does someone hold there job? Do you simply tell your boss, I’m an alcoholoic and need take off x amount of work? I mean, thats just not realistic and it’s basically a career killer.
A very valid point, I must admit. I had many of these same arguments myself when I was still drinking.
But most all of it is rooted in fear and denial (at least it was for me) and in the end I had no excuse not to pursue sobriety.
All of my excuses as to why I should not go to rehab did not hold up. They were all just excuses because I was afraid to face life sober, and I was afraid to quit drinking and using drugs. So I created arguments as to why I should not go to rehab. The “career killer” idea definitely fits into this line of thinking.
Common objection: “But I have a good job now, if I go to rehab I will surely lose it!”
Believe it or not, I was using the “career killer” argument based on my job in pizza delivery. Seriously.
Not that pizza delivery is a bad job necessarily, but as you can imagine it is not exactly rocket science, and it is also a very common job. There are pizzas being delivered all over the place, nearly all the time, so there are plenty of jobs out there if one wants to deliver pizzas. It is not exactly a competitive position that is fought over, nearly anyone with a valid license can go do the job if they so choose.
Which actually brings up a very interesting point, because drug and alcohol abuse has the unique side effect in the long run of removing driving privileges. Many people who drink heavily or use drugs eventually end up losing their ability to drive as a (somewhat) natural consequence of their addiction. So if anything, I should have been saying “I should really get clean and sober so that I can be sure I do not end up losing my license, and I continue to do this job that I love so much.”
In the end it is all just a bunch of lies and denial. Pizza delivery is not my passion and it was certainly not my destiny in life. It was simply a way for me to make money while I was stuck in my addiction and it is ridiculous that I tried to defend the job as being a reason not to go to rehab.
But I did argue that. Friends and family tried to encourage me to go to rehab, and I objected, saying that I did not want to risk losing my job.
Now, here is why the argument does not hold any weight:
One, because pizza delivery (and indeed all jobs) are really a dime a dozen. This is especially true based on the transition into sobriety (and your increased ability to hustle while sober).
Two, because whatever you are doing in your addiction is suffering because you are holding yourself back due to your disease, and not giving the job your all. As such, you are not doing the right job, either. You are under-performing. Whatever it is that you are doing, you could be so much more without the chains of addiction holding you back.
Three, because you are overestimating your abilities while stuck in your disease, and you are underestimating the improvement you will experience while sober. Every addict and drunk does this, even if they do it secretly. I really believed in some way that my addiction was an asset to my job and to my career. This was all part of the rationalization that we do as addicts and alcoholics. The truth is that your disease hinders your career MORE than you believe, and also that your sobriety would enhance it much MORE than you realize.
At one point my friends and family did an intervention on me. They first went to my employer (the pizza place) and they asked to speak to the manager. Then they asked to speak to his boss, the regional manager, and ended up talking to him via phone. They told this manager the situation, and how they wanted to convince me to go to treatment, and they also explained that they knew that I would object based on my job, that I did not want to lose it.
This regional manager knew who I was and he knew that I was a good worker. So he said “yes, tell him to go to treatment, his job will be waiting for him when he gets back.”
This was all arranged beforehand without my knowledge, and even though it was a bit sneaky, it really shatters my own excuse that I had in my mind.
Ultimately though when I look back and think about this sort of thing it is ridiculous. If and when you get clean and sober your entire life will change so much that your career becomes a bit of a trivial detail.
If you are still drinking or using drugs and you are clinging to this idea that you do not want to lose track on your career path, then you are thinking too small, too narrowly. In my 11 years of recovery I have worked for 2 different companies doing three different job positions, built a very successful business that practically eliminated the need to work altogether, and also found a very flexible freelance arrangement that gives me plenty of freedom. I no longer even “have to work” like I had to when I was delivering pizzas, my life situation has changed that much. Today I am truly free.
This is the kind of transition that someone in active addiction could never possibly predict or foresee, but that recovery and sobriety will allow them to experience. In other words, you are thinking too small when you worry about your career and how it may suffer during this life transition. You are placing this artificial limit on yourself and on your life when you think that you will go to rehab, come out, and then just go back to doing the same old grind again.
The transition to a life of freedom in recovery will change everything. New doors will open and you will find that new things are important to you that may have never cared about before while drinking or using drugs. You may make decisions in your life based on new criteria, based on things that produce happiness and contentment rather than promotions or job raises.
In recovery your true potential is unleashed, and this may not manifest itself in the manner in which you are thinking. Most of us probably think fairly one-track and believe that this will lead to career advancement in our current career. Rather, what you are not predicting is the wild shift, the complete jump into a new universe in which you can create positive change and completely blow the doors off of your old life and your old way of thinking. This is certainly what happened to me in my own recovery and it all unfolded rather quickly in just a single decade that seemed to fly right by.
One thing that most people do not realize when they get into recovery is how time changes. In addiction you are rushed, you don’t have enough time, there is not enough time to do everything, to keep everyone happy, to say all the right things and go to the right parties and keep it all held together while you self medicate. You are like an exhausted hamster on that little wheel, trying to make it all work.
In recovery this all changes. Recovery makes life easy, because all of that stuff slows down. Now you have plenty of time. All of your priorities are dropped in order to focus on sobriety and learning how to stay clean and sober. It is hard reset for your entire life. (If it is not then you probably did not surrender fully just yet).
If there is one thing that I have in recovery it is lots of time. I used to make it all work somehow while I was drinking using drugs every single day. Now that I am clean and sober I have reclaimed all of that time and all of that mental energy and I can now funnel it into whatever I choose to pursue. If you think I had an advantage while I was drinking or using drugs you are crazy. Now that I am sober I have this huge reserve of time, mental energy, and focus. If I want to build a business I can do that. Doing so is actually easier than being drunk and high every day and delivering pizzas without getting busted. Seriously! The difficulty level of your addiction gets readjusted when you get clean and sober. Life becomes so much easier in recovery and the world becomes your oyster.
If you have ever felt stuck in your job and stared up at the ceiling and said to yourself “Wouldn’t it be nice if I get paid to teach yoga rather than sitting in this cubicle” or something like “wouldn’t it be nice if I did not have to slave away at this job and I could be outdoors doing something I loved instead?” If you have ever had those thoughts during your addiction then getting clean and sober is the way to make those ideas into a reality.
Really, when you are clean and sober it all becomes so much easier. You are no longer stuck. Now you have choices. Now you have power, you have time and energy and mental focus.
And even if you believe that you have “the perfect job” while you are stuck in addiction, chances are really good that you do NOT. After getting clean and sober you will figure out a new path, one that you never could have foreseen while you were still stuck in your addiction. And life will get better and better as you experience this awesome new life in recovery that seems to change all the rules. This is “living without limits.” Recovery makes it easy. Of course, you do have to get clean and sober first!
Another common objection: “Drinking is part of the lifestyle that goes with my career. If I quit I will be the oddball.”
I thought this same thing when I was still working and drinking. All of my coworkers (or so I rationalized) liked to drink too, and if I quit it would just be too horribly awkward. I would be the odd man out.
Also, I did not even like the idea that if I got clean and sober that I might have to change my set of friends (those who drank and used drugs for those who are clean and sober).
So again, it is not so much that this objection is in error, because it is actually true in a way. If you quit drinking and then keep hanging around your old friends or coworkers who drink, then yes–you will sort of be the odd man out.
But the point here is that you are thinking small again. You are seeing this way too narrowly. And maybe that is something that is impossible to convey to someone who is stuck in addiction and is afraid of losing their friends, but that does not change the fact that getting clean and sober will just completely change your whole life, blow the doors off of these petty ideas about being the oddball, and so on.
Really, when you get clean and sober and start living this awesome new life, you will look back and laugh at yourself for being so concerned about stuff like this. Believe it or not, sobriety is actually the norm, there are plenty of people running around who are clean and sober and do not self medicate every day (like we did in our addiction). This really is the norm!
Second of all, we cannot possibly see past this fear and see the amazing choices and changes that we will experience in our recovery journey. Sobriety will be exciting for you and you WILL meet new people and make new friends and you are just going to have to accept and embrace that fact. For me, that was not what I wanted to hear and I was terrified of the idea but I was miserable enough in my addiction to do it anyway. I went along for the ride and I got clean and sober and I made new friends a dozen times over, met all sorts of new people and years later my old drinking buddies are a distant memory. I do not regret this or mourn the loss of any of those old friends and neither will you. But when you are still in your addiction it is very hard to believe that and so I do not blame you one bit for being scared and intimidated by the idea that you are going to create some new relationships in your life.
Most employers today are more understanding than you think
As mentioned above, my employer liked me as a worker and so therefore they were very understanding about my trip to rehab.
Ever heard of the show called “Intervention” on A&E? So has everyone else. Addiction and recovery and treatment has gotten a lot more exposure in the last couple of years. The stigma may still be there but it is far less than what it used to be. People are much more understanding than what you are predicting, and they are much more accommodating than what you expect.
Thirty years ago this was not necessarily the case. A hundred years ago this was definitely not the case. Addiction was more of a “hush, hush” kind of operation, there was too much shame involved, and people just did not talk about it or expose it or face it as openly as what they do today. This really has changed over time and the stigma is far less powerful today. People are more understanding about it than they ever have been before.
The economics of recovery
What is your job for anyway? To make money? To have a lifelong career? To be successful?
These are all fine goals but you are deluding yourself if you believe you have an advantage in them while you are still drinking or drugging.
As I mentioned above there are certain elements of recovery that sort of blow the doors off of the old model. You have all of this extra time and mental energy and so therefore what used to be a big struggle during your addiction may become fairly easy in recovery.
Our addiction had cost us time, mental energy, and money. Most of us spent thousands on our addiction, on our lifestyle, and our drug of choice. Think for a moment about the impact of being clean and sober for the next ten years on your:
* Ability to get jobs and earn money.
* Ability to manage key relationships in your life, both emotionally and in your career.
* Ability to manage your finances.
* Ability to not waste thousands of dollars per year on chemicals that you dump into your body.
* Ability to create the future that you want to experience, rather than being a victim of circumstances.
The “economics” of recovery change all of this stuff when you are clean and sober. In active addiction, you have a disadvantage in every single one of those areas. In recovery you gain the upper hand and life becomes a game that is rather easy to play.
Do not avoid disruption. Embrace it.
Perhaps the biggest thing to keep in mind in all of this is the mindset and the attitude and the thinking about addiction and recovery.
When we are stuck in our active addiction, our thinking is narrow and we cannot see past our fear. We cannot see how life will transform in recovery. There is just no way that we could ever possibly see this transformation in advance, or convince an addict that it is real, or that it will benefit them.
But I can assure you that any addict or alcoholic who has these sort of fears about recovery (“Will I lose my career forever?”) is sort of wasting their time with such worry.
It is not that your fear is unfounded or foolish, because such fears are perfectly normal. I had the exact same fears myself.
But the point here is that recovery will change everything, it will shift your whole universe in a positive manner and it will simply blow the lid right off of those fears. In light of your successful recovery, such worries and fears will appear petty, trivial, even boring. Such fears and worry are nothing once you start on the right path in recovery.
Your entire attitude must change.
Right now your attitude is “I must avoid disruption in my life. Let’s just make this addiction thing go away, without too much collateral damage to my career, my relationships, etc.”
This is the wrong attitude. The correct attitude is “I have to change everything if I want to get clean and sober. In doing so I have great hope for the future, that things will get better.”
As such, you should not seek to avoid disruption. You should actually embrace it.
I used to believe that living in long term rehab was a foolish mistake, a massive disruption and a certain career-killer.
Turns out it was the best thing I ever did, and it started me off on a path to a new career, one that transformed into total freedom for me.
Shift your attitude and embrace disruption. It holds the key to your sobriety, and to your happiness.